LDNGuide

The Best Restaurants In Covent Garden

Burmese noodle soups, excellent dim sum, some of London's best tapas, and more.
The Best Restaurants In Covent Garden image

photo credit: Aleksandra Boruch

There are plenty of excellent places to eat in Covent Garden these days. Sure, there are still way too many tourists, and, yes, the ligaments in your eyes may seize up from all the eye rolls you perform on your way to dinner. But be strong. It’s worth it. You just have to know where to go.

If you're in the area and in need of a pre or post-theatre meal, we've got a guide for that, plus one for the best restaurants in the West End.

THE SPOTS

photo credit: Ceri Davies

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Covent Garden

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For a sophisticated pre or post-theatre meal, Story Cellar in Covent Garden is an excellent option. Whether you’re seated upstairs or down, you’ll be well looked after at the sleek brasserie. Water glasses are refreshed whenever they’re half-empty, chic table lamps give everyone a healthy glow even after sitting through Les Mis, and French food hits the mark even if prices stack up quickly. You could come for a good-value rotisserie chicken, chips, and salad, but then you’d be missing out on brilliant starters like umami-rich snail “bolognaise” on toast.

If you’ve ever been to the original Blacklock in Soho, you already know that it’s somewhere you can consistently fall back on for crowd-pleasing steaks. The Covent Garden location is like Blacklock grew up, got really into tan leather, and started confidently toying around with Whole Foods ingredients. The delightfully charred steak sandwich and all-in meat fest, with beef, pork, and lamb chops, remains. You’ll also want the burger and the classic beef dripping chips on your table. It’s perfect for a low-key date night, or for a fillet and Old Fashioned one-two punch before a show.

In the morning, this weekday-only cafe is a quiet, cupboard-sized spot to sit with a flat white. But forget about that come 12pm. Anyone and everyone who works around Covent Garden heads here, ready to queue for a box that could double as a dumbbell, filled with excellent salads. The line moves fast as boxes are generously filled with roasted carrot and chickpea salad, bulgur wheat with vegetables, and homemade hummus. There are a couple of seats, but good luck getting a look in at lunchtime.

The soothing sound of biang biang noodles being methodically slapped on a table is just one of the reasons why we like Xi’an Biang Biang Noodles. That noise from the open kitchen in the casual, Muji-esque space is the first indicator that the hand-pulled noodles should always be on your table. Although some of the other Xi’anese dishes can miss the mark (cc: the dry pork burger), overall this spot delivers on its promise to feed you quickly and that you can leave satisfied for £20.

On a corner of Burleigh Street that feels removed from the tourist-filled, cobblestoned streets of Covent Garden, Italian restaurant Vasiniko makes some of London’s best pizzas. They’re Neapolitan-style, with doughy, charred crusts that would convert even a no-crusts kind of person to get involved. Don’t get distracted by specials like the creamy truffle-based tartufina, because the rich, basil-infused tomato sauce means that you absolutely cannot leave without trying the straightforward margherita. Enjoy it in Vasiniko’s bright and airy, holiday-feel dining room with cosy booths for groups.

Lahpet is a buzzing Burmese restaurant that will serve everyone enough coconut and ginger to shock you out of your urban blues. The vegan yellow pea paratha is a zesty little flatbread number, and you’ll be tempted to ask the massive king prawns about their workout regime. The highlight, though, is the coconut noodles. Rich, creamy, with an essential crispy wonton that serves as the ultimate spoon. Lahpet understands that craving no-brainer comfort is something everyone has in common.

photo credit: Hoa Sen

Hoa Sen doesn’t have flashy furniture, nor does it have a jazzy neon-lit bar. The Vietnamese restaurant is the equivalent of Gogglebox: comforting, consistently good, and as enjoyable alone as it is with your family. There are all the classics—phở, magnificent summer rolls, tenderly grilled quail—and plenty of room for groups big and small. The bulky menu will have something for everyone, but make sure the slippery bánh cuốn are on your table.

If you’re into huge, meaty lamb chops, bhaji onion rings, and butter chicken-filled naan, then this dimly lit Indian spot near Charing Cross is for you. Easy to miss on Adelaide Street, this restaurant has booths, group tables, and bar stools facing the street. The menu is filled with North Indian-style tandoori meat and breads, with delicious starters and juicy lamb chops that’ll satisfy any grilled meat lover. It’s quite a popular spot, so book ahead to avoid disappointment.

All adults need a place like Cora Pearl in their lives. This restaurant on Henrietta Street serves rich British food that’s refined without being fussy, in a space that’s grown-up without even a hint of ‘do you think a count once died in here?’. Come with your parents or someone you want to low-key impress, or, even better, when someone else is paying. Just remember, there’s nothing wrong with an adult like yourself ordering the milk and cookies dessert. You’ll regret it if you don’t.

You bring someone to Barrafina when you want to pretend that you’re more successful than you actually are, and to experience some of the best tapas outside of Spain. This particular Barrafina is arguably the best outpost of the mini-chain, in no small part due to the lovely pavement terrace that's one of London's top-tier spots during the summer. Sure, the food’s on the pricey side but it’s worth it, and although there’s always a wait, there are definitely worse things in life than hanging out with a glass of cava and a plate of ham.

This two-floor American restaurant opposite the Lyceum is for two very different moods. The upstairs restaurant is all white tablecloths, high ceilings, and an open and airy feel. The downstairs martini bar is all dim lighting, velvet sofa chairs, and very strong third date energy. If you’re headed here with a group of friends and are after some of the best french toast in London, sit in the dining room and make a meal of it. But if you’re in the mood for a drink and a bite to eat with someone you fancy, know you can order the whole menu in the bar.

If you’re not already a convert, The Barbary will make you understand why eating at the bar can be a blast. All of the restaurant’s seats are at a counter surrounding an open kitchen and bar, and this place, from the same people behind The Palomar, gets everything right. From the upbeat atmosphere and incredible Middle Eastern-meets-North African food, to the service and sleek decor. Get there close to opening if you haven’t booked and want to avoid a wait, and don’t bring more than a couple of friends. It gets loud and no one wants to be the poor person in the middle who gets screamed over.

J Sheekey is known for being a late-night hangout for movie and theatre types, which makes sense since it’s in the middle of the West End. It’s also known for being one of the classiest places to get a seafood dinner. We like to come to sip champagne and eat oysters, while pretending that we’ve just sold a script to a big film studio (the 20th Fast & Furious film, but still). Prices for things like lobster are predictably high, and their legendary fish pie will cost you just over 20 quid. But it’s perfect for impressing out-of-towners or for a low-key special meal.

Din Tai Fung is a casual Taiwanese restaurant on Henrietta Street that specialises in dumplings. Yes, there are soup and rice dishes on the menu, but if you don’t get the chilli crab xiao long bao and pork wontons in black chilli, then you’re doing it wrong. Despite being a pretty huge restaurant, this place fills up quickly, so book ahead or get there early. Or bring some of your favourite people so they can entertain you in the queue.

Sometimes you need somewhere small and straightforward to escape to, which is where Parsons comes in. The seafood restaurant on Endell Street is very much blink and you’ll miss it. Once you do find it, you’ll discover a corridor of a restaurant where fresh catches are written up on the walls, and people are happily tucking into oysters, chips, and other nice things. It’s a restaurant that really suits two people but can stretch to four—book ahead if going for the latter. The seafood is lovely and simple, and the lobster mash in particular is something you’ll regret agreeing to share.

Sometimes you just want to eat pasta. But sometimes, you want to eat some really good pasta in a really great setting. That’s what Bancone is all about. And for somewhere with this much marble, and this much saffron butter on the menu, it’s very affordable too. Go for the silk handkerchiefs (sheets of skinny pasta covered in hazelnut butter and confit egg yolk), or the slow-cooked 10-hour oxtail ragu pappardelle. Even if you come for a quick lunch, a couple of Negronis probably won’t hurt either.

We like buns—whether that’s hot cross or bao—and this spot inside Covent Garden Piazza has some pretty great ones. Foremost among them is the BFC Bun—think fried chicken, lettuce, and mayo in a soft bao—which tastes like a McDonald’s chicken sandwich in the best way possible. The rest of the menu—solid lobster rolls, green chicken curries, and calamari salads—is all pretty great and the seating feels alfresco without being exposed to the worst of the British weather. Book ahead at weekends when it can get pretty busy.

Hawksmoor has long had a reputation as being one of the best places to get a steak in London, and we agree. It backs up the claim with brilliant food—all the meat is sourced from the UK, and each steak is cooked to perfection. The Seven Dials location, in particular, is a huge basement room filled with the sounds of people eating red meat and having a good time. Besides beef, Hawksmoor does very good seafood (get the scallops), and the bar at this outpost is excellent and reason enough to visit on its own, especially if you just want a sandwich and a cocktail.

The fact this Peruvian spot off Garrick Street looks like a quaint little restaurant from the outside is pretty deceptive. It’s actually a big modern restaurant, with a rustic private dining room and a bar in the basement. Whether you go for a couple of pisco cocktails and some yuca fries, or a full-blown feast of salmon ceviche, roasted lamb rump, and beef empanadas, you’re pretty much guaranteed a great time.

Sometimes you just want to settle down in a pretty dining room with people you like, and eat steak frites with a bottle of good wine. There are few places better to do this in London than The Delaunay. It’s a perfect storm of everything we love about eating out. From the decor and service, to the food and atmosphere, it’s a class act. If you’re feeling really minted, it’s also great for drop-ins, a drink, or even breakfast, and it has a take-out counter for coffee and very good pastries.

This little wine bar on Maiden Lane is exactly the kind of place you want to stumble upon after discovering a hole in your shoe on ‘the wettest Wednesday since 1983’. Between the baked camembert, the candlelight, and all of that organic wine, there isn’t much that a visit to Lady Of The Grapes can’t fix. Grab a bottle with a group of friends, dive into the charcuterie selection, and split the tarte au citron. Need somewhere charming to pop the question (no, not ‘do you want to share some brie’)? Go for a bottle of champagne and let the candlelight do the rest.

Compared to some other ramen restaurants, Ippudo has the advantage of a very cool-looking dining room, a much larger menu, and the ability to seat reasonably large groups of people. In other words, it’s perfect for when there are a few of you hankering after some noodles, and you want to make an evening of it without being shoehorned around a tiny table. The noodles are great and there are good options for vegetarians. It’s no-bookings, but the queue usually moves pretty fast.

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